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It looks like there's no turning back: most cell phone carriers are implementing their own 5G networks. But what is 5G, and how will it help us? Here's everything you need to know about it.

In a nutshell, 5G is an advanced wireless technology. It's the 5th generation of cellular wireless networks, and it is supposed to be about 10 times faster than the current (4G LTE) network. With 5G, you will get access to a mobile connection that's on par with the fiber-optic Internet cable in your home.

Everything started with 1G, the analog cellular network. which was introduced in the 80s. With 1G networks, the voice wasn't encoded digitally; just like with a walkie-talkie, it was only modulated to a much higher frequency. That made call privacy an issue, of course.

This is one of the key reasons why 2G networks were introduced. To begin with, this type of networks allowed conversations to be digitally encrypted. And since voice was converted to the digital format, it was using less bandwidth, thus allowing carriers to accommodate more customers on the same frequency band. Finally, 2G was the first network that allowed the transmission of text messages (SMS).

The third generation of mobile networks was built with faster data transfer speeds in mind. 3G was able to move data at a speed of only 144 Kbps at first, but future implementations have increased that limit to 2 Mbps. Security levels were increased as well; user equipment was required to authenticate the network it was attaching to, so the risk of connecting to an evil twin network was significantly reduced.

4G LTE is the broadband cellular network that's used in most countries at the moment. It's the technology that powers our smartphones since 2009, when the first Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard has been deployed in Norway and Sweden. Mobile 4G networks operate using several frequency bands, which range from 700 to 2,600 MHz. Typical data transfer speeds can reach 1,000 Mbps, and the newest generations of modems can move data at speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps.

What about 5G? Some carriers utilize the low-frequency spectrum, which is easier to use, but doesn't provide a significant speed boost. This is a good solution for rural networks, though, because it offers a 30-50% data transfer increase without requiring a huge investment in new hardware. Other carriers use mid-band frequencies, which range from 2 GHz to 7 GHz and provide better speeds. Still, they need many more cell sites in comparison with 4G LTE.

The best 5G implementation uses millimeter-wave frequencies, though. In this case, the radio waves can transport much more information at once, so download speeds can reach 20 Gbps – at least in theory. Additionally, latencies could be as low as 1 millisecond, though real-life values will probably range from 5 to 10 ms – about 300% faster than what we are getting with the existing 4G LTE networks.

If you want to connect to one of the fifth-generation networks, you will need to purchase a 5G phone. Still, to ensure that your smartphone works with any carrier, be sure to get an all-band model which has a fast CPU, plenty of RAM and a decent video card. I guarantee that you will also want to use it as a window into the world of Augmented Reality (AR) applications, which are made possible by the new 5G technology.